Metro Atlanta’s haunted houses go high-tech

With names like Netherworld, Paranoia and Containment, Atlanta’s haunted houses aren’t shy about letting you know that they are here to scare and shock you.

But with fierce competition among the metro area’s haunts, the producers of the biggest ones are pulling out all the stops when it comes to the technology they will use to create a fear factor. But fear not that it’s all going to tech; most houses will still have a character with a chain saw chasing you out the door.

Paranoia

Oliver Aspinwall, one of the owners of Paranoia in Roswell, says their haunt, and the industry as a whole, gets bigger every year.

“It’s now so big and expensive,” Aspinwall says. “Last year, we had one haunt. This year, it’s going to be two, and they keep getting bigger in size and scope.”

When Paranoia, housed in an abandoned retail space in the Roswell Town Center, opens Oct. 3, lines are expected to form well into the parking lot.

Aspinwall says every inch of his haunted house is carefully thought out, from the parking lot where visitors are primed for what they might expect to see and experience, to the brightness of the LED lights, and the way groups are moved from room to room of the property until of course, they are chased by a chain-saw-wielding maniac.

“It all costs money, and more each year,” Aspinwall admits, “but it doesn’t matter how much technology you have, the human element is still important and can’t be replaced.”

This has caused a ripple effect, and it has brought the average price of admittance to a haunted house in Atlanta to about $22.

Aspinwall says they are stepping up big-time on their costuming technology. They will be using silicone masks and professionally sewn costumes for their actors.

“We are now going with silicone masks that are more realistic and easier to clean,” Aspinwall adds. “Our actors arrive two hours ahead of time for costuming and makeup, and these costumes and masks can run about $2,000 each with the expensive technology that is embedded in the fabric.”

Folklore Haunted House

“Expensive” is a word that Paulding County’s Folklore Haunted House owner Dan Riker keeps uttering.

Riker’s goal is to remain one of the biggest haunted houses in the state, and he doesn’t see the competition easing up.

“We’ve added plasma TVs that have morphing pictures that sync with our animatronics,” Riker said. “3-D displays are coming, but we have our style and make our own unique haunt.”

This year, with the popularity of zombie shows like AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Riker has added a Zombie Target Range to his property, and they are bringing back their unique coffin simulator ride where you witness and experience your own death while in a coffin.

Netherworld

You can’t talk about haunted houses in Atlanta without mentioning Netherworld.

For the past 17 years, Netherworld has been the undisputed king of haunted houses in Atlanta, and last year it was ranked as the second best haunted house in the country by Hauntworld.com. If you are brave enough to go Netherworld’s entire path, you will walk more than six football fields, experience 250 special effects, and try to stay upright in the 20-square-foot Rocking Room.

This year, Netherworld focuses on two themes: The Dead Ones and Boogeyman. Both haunts use special effects and technology that will jolt all your senses. While “The Dead” walk the streets and try to destroy visitors, the Boogeyman will remind guests of their childhood fear of the evil being that comes when you sleep. Netherworld is banking on combining old fears with new technology that will equal a Halloween hit.

Containment

The new kid on the block this year is Atlantic Station’s Containment. It will charge $25, but it offers a realistic storyline to go along with the spooks.

Located on the former site of the old Atlantic Steel Mill, Atlantic Station was a busy center of train activity for decades. Containment picks up on this theme as a group of train cars carrying demonic artifacts derails at Atlantic Station and part of the multiuse development is quarantined off while these evil demons are rounded up.

Containment is the brainchild of Rick Clark, senior vice president of design and fabrication at Entertainment Design Group in Austell. Clark, who used to head Six Flags’ Halloween exhibits, is quick to point out that Containment is different in that there is no chain saw.

“We have lights, audio and animatronics that are now controlled by a computer that is pre-programmed,” Clark says. “It’s mostly automated, but we have a professional makeup team and characters that visitors will think are real.”

Containment throws in HD monitors, timed water cannons and a state-of-the-art fog machine that generates three different types of fog.

Riker says customers will always expect to see that chain saw and a vortex tunnel, but he can judge the success of his unique haunt by looking at his customers and how they react to the technology in place.

“When people laugh, you have done something wrong, but when they scream and cry, you have done something right.”

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